Sunday, March 28, 2010
Novel: Death's Head
Death's Head by David Gunn, 2008
Looking back, it's been a while since I've reviewed any books. I know the pulp Conan books weren't the only ones I've read since November, but nothing else comes to mind. Then there's Death's Head, something I literally picked up on a whim at the used bookstore for $3 bucks. Now it's not the "best military sci-fi" I've ever read, but it was pretty good.
The book is novel-sized but split into two distinct parts. The first half of the book sets up the main character, Sven, who has a host of traits that put him head-and-shoulders above your average soldier. It gets into his background, who he is, where he came from, and ultimately how he comes to be in the present; and that's in the service of the Death's Head, an elite branch of the military under the OctoV empire. The second part of the book jumps right into the action, as Sven hits dirtside on an enemy planet against overwhelming odds.
The technology is pretty widespread, from basic slug throwers to dimensional shifting and everything in between. There's actually a lot of cool things that the main character "uses" that I hesitate spoiling here. One thing I will let slip is his sarcastic, intelligent gun. The sights, sounds, and smells Gunn portrays cover to cover are vivid, and crudely raw. There's a prevalent sexual element (as common with most ground-pounders and loose women) throughout, and it gets fairly explicit. Also, there's a certain olfactory ambiance that's equally crude, and mostly revolves around feces. Now I say "crude", not in the literary sense, but just in the unabashed truthfulness of it, nothing is sugar-coated, or even moderately softened.
The action is good, but this isn't an action book and many portions are without. This is a good thing though because real character development takes place and something resembling a story emerges; before you know it, you're really getting into it. By the time you've got less than a quarter of the book to go, you're already eager for the sequel.